• Distance 14 km
  • Elevation gain 1120m Max 19% Ave 8%
  • Difficulty
  • Epic rating

To cycle Alpe d’Huez is to conquer cycling’s most famous mountain: the Alpe d’Huez cycling climb is the most famous climb the sport has.

The 21 bends that wiggle up the Alpe d’Huez climb are instantly recognisable and have been responsible for shaping the outcome of the Tour de France more often than perhaps any other.

For that, if nothing else, cycling Alpe d’Huez is a must-do ride for most serious road cyclists.

All metrics in this article are approximate.

Cycling Alpe D’Huez: highlights

Riding Alpe d’Huez and conquering it!

It’s been in over 25 Tour de France stages; climbing it brings you closer to the sport. It also makes you realise the unbelievable strength it takes to be a Tour de France champion.

Alpe d'Huez switchbacks above Bourg d'Oisans
Cycling Alpe d'Huez climb

Climbing Alpe d’Huez: what to expect

1. Base at Bourg d’Oisans to La Garde: first 6 bends (bends 21-16)

Look out for the “Depart, KM 0” tombstone by the side of the road: it’s a couple of kilometres outside town, just before the turn onto the first ramp up. The first six bends up to La Garde are the toughest of the mountain, averaging around 11%.

Our advice: don’t push it too hard here or you’ll blow up later.

2. La Garde to Huez: middle 10 bends (bends 15-6)

After a brief 200m respite from the harsh gradients as you ride through La Garde, it’s up past the monument dedicated to Joachim Agostino at bend 14 and onto a string of corners before you reach the church of Saint-Ferréol. Gradients in this section are still a hefty old 8-9% but they’ll feel easier than the first bends. Next step is through Huez village.

3. Huez to Tour de France finish: last 5 bends (bends 5-0)

As you head out of Huez village, be prepared for a series of stinging bends which are as difficult as the first on the mountain. It’s only in the last three kilometres that you find some respite with average gradients of 5-6%.

Alpe d’Huez profile graph, courtesy of the MyCols app

4. Descending Alpe d’Huz

There are a few options:

Return the way you came

Via Villard Reculas and down to Allemont: take a look at our Pas de La Confession loop. This route involves a few meters of additional climbing, but the cliff road to Villard Reculas is stunning.

Via La Guard and the balcony road: this would be the first leg of our Balcons d’Auris, Col de Sarenne and Alpe d’Huez ride, but instead of going on to ride Col de Sarenne, you would return home along the main road between Freney d’Oisans and Bourg d’Oisans. This route involves approximately an additional 350m climbing. Like the Pas de La Confession loop, the views from the balcony road are incredible.

Via Col d’Sarenne: this is our Balcons d’Auris, Col de Sarenne and Alpe d’Huez route in reverse.

Alpe d'Huez churchChurch on Alpe d’Huez
Red bike on Alpe d'HuezAnother landmark on Alpe d’Huez
Alpe d'Huez signPhoto credit: bofotolux/Shutterstock.com

Café stops

Water is available from a water fountain at bend 16 (La Garde en Oisans). Alpe d’Huez village also has a good choice of cafés.

Where to stay

Find our tips on where to stay and specific accommodation suggestions in our article on where to stay in/around Alpe d’Huez.

Cycling Alpe d’Huez: tips

  • Alpe d’Huez’s 8% average gradient over 13km and should not be underestimated. Don’t start too quickly! The first six bends to La Garde are the most difficult.
  • This guide is based on the Tour de France finish. Confusingly, there are two finishes. The earlier finish (known as the tourist finish) is as you first go into Alpe d’Huez, just before the wooden bridge. The Tour de France finish is another kilometre or so into town on the Avenue du Rif Nel, by a car park next to the ski slopes.
  • Each bend is numbered and named after past stage winners. This article lists the names you can expect to see on each bend. If you want to see the road in its full painted glory, come for (or just after) the Tour – or indeed the Alp d’Huzes sportive.
  • If you want to see the road in its full painted glory, come for (or just after) the Tour – or indeed the Alp d’Huzes sportive.
  • Marco Pantani holds the record for the fastest ascent – 37 minutes, 35 seconds (based on 14.45km).
  • Take enough water: in summer the climb gets very hot, with the sun reflected off the tarmac and walls.
  • On average, nearly 400 cyclists a day make the legendary climb (we’ve seen estimates of around 1,000/day during the summer). Go early if you want to be amongst the first of the day.
  • Want to know the best time to cycle Alpe d’Huez? Read this section of our guide to the region.
  • There are professional photographers on the way up, in case you want a photo to prove you were there!
  • If you want a race up Alpe d’Huez, then every Wednesday at 10am there is a mass start timed event. It starts under a big inflatable start banner from the centre of Bourg d’Oisans. Registration is from 9am at the Bourg d’Oisans tourist office (though we think you could get your number and chip the day before). The chip starts timing when you pass the sensor at the bottom of the climb. You may also want to consider a sportive incorporating Alpe d’Huez.
  • Ever wonder why people refer to Alpe d’Huez as the Dutch mountain?  8 out of the first 14 winners were Dutch. The Dutch have adopted bend 7 as Dutch corner and during the Tour de France they turn it orange!
  • Still want to try cycling up Alpe d’Huez?! Read our tips for cycling in the Alps before you set out.
  • Alpe d’Huez forms the finish line for the notorious Marmotte Granfondo – here’s our guide to the Marmotte and a reader Q&A too.

Found this guide useful?

  • We’d love to hear from you – comment below or drop us a line.
  • Check out our ultimate guide to cycling around Alpe d’Huez and other articles on the Alps, below.
  • Want to do an Everest cycling challenge on Alpe d’Huez? Read our experience here.
  • Don’t miss our other ride guides on the area: find them all in the Road Rides section of our ultimate guide.

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Clare Dewey

Clare Dewey is a cyclist with a passion for travel. She set up epicroadrides.com in 2018 to help make it easy for cyclists to explore the world by bike. Today her mission is still inspiring cyclists to discover new places on two wheels – and doing what she can to make sure they have the best possible time while they’re there. Clare has visited 50+ destinations around the world, many of them by bike.

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8 Responses to “Alpe d’Huez cycling climb,
French Alps”

  1. I’m currently sat at the top of the climb, unfortunately your route is incorrect and does not take you to the iconic finish and Tour de France plinth rather it goes around and up a parallel road.

    Pretty gutted to have have missed that. Please compare to Strava etc and update.

    • Hi Sam, thanks for flagging this. I’m sorry you were disappointed, we’ve now updated the route. Perhaps an excuse to tackle the Alpe again another day?!

  2. Thanks for a great website full of all the info i am looking for. my name is John and i am travelling from New Zealand to experience a week watching the Tour d’France and ride some of the famous rides. im bringing my own bike. i will be riding alone, but after reading your info i will be amongst many other friendly cyclists.
    Cant wait. i can say now it will be slow going but wonderful!

    • I hope you are having/had a wonderful time! Thanks for your kind words. Please tell your friends about the website! And if you know anyone that would be interested in sharing their knowledge of cycling in New Zealand, do get in touch (info@epicroadrides.com). We would love to tell our readers about it!

  3. Dears, I kindly ask you for information Is there during October some days to climb the Alpe d huez only for cyclist? So close for car?
    Thanks a lot for answer

    • Not as far as we know, I’m afraid, but you could check with the local tourist office in Bourg d’Oisans – they should be able to tell you definively!

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